YouTuber Tyler Rugge Builds Successful Channel

Tyler Rugge’s 16th birthday changed his life.

“Growing up I was always fascinated with reptiles, but my parents didn’t want me to keep them as pets,” said Tyler, a popular YouTuber and animal lover. “When I turned 16 my dad surprised me and got me a Leopard Gecko for my birthday. I just loved everything about it.”

Tyler immediately began researching how to care for his gecko. He said, “I loved doing the research and applying it to what I learned. I observed him a lot and it was fascinating.”

“This led me to get other reptiles as well. I got a Bearded Dragon soon after and then a Ball Python,” said Tyler. And so began his passion for reptiles.

Tyler credits a lot of research, hands-on experiences, and making friends in the reptile community, for his success. “I learned from trial and error as well as communicating with other people who are also passionate about keeping reptiles. I learned from their own experiences,” he added.

YouTube Channel: Trendy Then Exotic

And then came YouTube.

Tyler said, “I watched a lot on YouTube, and it was just something I always wanted to try. I started my channel in 2015.” He began making videos that were trendy because he didn’t know what type to make. Other YouTubers inspired him to try something different.

Ditching trendy videos, Tyler decided to focus on his pets. Once that happened the followers came.

“One of the first few videos I did was a Meet My Pets video,” he explained. “After that video, the channel sort of blew up and then over time I just started making more videos about my pets.” Tyler has over 50 exotic pets.

What started as something only for fun turned into a major presence on YouTube. Tyler has over 360,000 followers and has posted more than 400 videos on his reptiles and other pets.

He has often wondered why so many people followed him and now attributes it to consistently posting videos. He added, “I also have a good relationship with my followers and try to give them helpful advice. I have also learned a lot from them as well.”

Tyler also feels they are connected to him as a content creator and his pets. “A lot of people say they can’t have certain pets, so they like to live vicariously through my videos,” he added.

Then Came an Unexpected Reptile Friend

When Tyler was walking his dog on a street near his apartment complex, he

did a double-take and saw a small Sulcata Tortoise. “I live in Michigan, so it was definitely a surprise,” he said. The Sulcata Tortoise is native to Africa, inhabiting the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.

Tyler decided to take the tortoise, eventually named Letty, home.

After researching the species, Tyler learned that she required more space and a longer time commitment than most reptiles. “They get very big and live a very long time,” he said. “They can live over 70 years.”

In fact, the Sulcata Tortoise is two to three inches long at birth but grows quickly. As adults, their shell length is roughly 18 inches long and they weigh 70-100 pounds or even more.

Letty Gives Quite the First Impression

Letty soon made her mark.

“When I first found her and brought her to the car to show my girlfriend Maddie, she immediately peed all over her. It was so funny,” said Tyler.

After trying to find her owner, Tyler made Letty his pet.

“I spent a lot of time trying to find her owner,” he explained. “I wasn’t sure if Letty was lost or if someone released her.”

Tyler posted about her in reptile groups and even checked to see if she was microchipped. “Nobody ever claimed her, so it looks like she will be in my care for a while. I set up a big Zen Habitats enclosure for her in my basement,” said Tyler.

Viewers have been following his rescue journey through a few videos.

He plans on keeping Letty if he can figure out a way to build a large enough enclosure in his home. “Ideally it would be great to keep Letty outside but the weather in Michigan isn’t very good most of the year,” he said.

Thankfully, he has a plan if she outgrows his space. He said, “I do have people in mind who I know would give her a great home.”

The Sulcata Tortoise is Not for Most Pet Owners

The Sulcata Tortoise is extremely difficult to keep as a pet.

“Since they get so big and they are also very strong you need a very large and secure enclosure. You need to be sure you can accommodate for that. You also need to keep their long lifespans in mind because you’ll probably have it your entire life,” he explained.

Tyler has yet to post a video on tortoise care.

“I haven’t made any videos about tortoise husbandry since it’s still new to me, but I did make a video about the temporary Zen Habitats enclosure setup I made for Letty,” he explained.

Tortoise Tips

Tyler does have tortoise tips for current and future owners.

“It’s so important to make sure they have proper UVB and calcium/vitamin supplementation. A lot of tortoises suffer from MBD (metabolic bone disease) and have deformities due to lacking these vital aspects to their care,” he ended.

Zen Habitats offers a variety of reptile enclosures to suit your pet, no matter the species. Use the new Design Your Dream Setup feature on our website to find the perfect enclosure setup for you and your pet! For more information e-mail or call 781-755-8008.